Thursday, 26 July 2012


In hindsight I think I over did my run on Sunday, I should have ignored the plan and rested more after the race.  Going for a run on Tuesday turned out to be a bad idea too - the times were ok, but the further I went the more it hurt, and all through today I've had stabbing pains in my buttock, hip and thigh, even just walking around.

This week was supposed to be my easy recovery week, 4 lots of 4 miles at a 10 minute pace, nothing fast, no long runs.  I'm probably going to be doing some sitting down instead, at least for the next day or two.

I'm already thinking about using the hour I win back to enjoy some decent meals, it'll be nice not to end up shoveling whatever food is quick and easy into my face really late at night.

Clouds, silver linings, and all that.

Total Distance 4.19mi
Duration 40:44 - (Spilt times: 09:53, 09:56, 09:25, 09:33, 01:57)
Avg Pace 9:42

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Easy like Sunday morning?

By Sunday I'd already had a busy weekend and felt exhausted, I was tired, my legs hurt, my back hurt, even my backside hurt. I really didn't feel like running at all but the plan said 8 miles. I figured that sooner or later I had to tackle a run I didn't feel like doing, so decided this would be the one.

My usual routes all seem to involve hills, I really wasn't up to that, a quick look at the map and a new plan was arrived at. I decided on a completely flat route picking up the the Derby Route 66 cycle route, round to Chellaston and then on to Route 6 and finally along the canal, then back towards home via Stenson Marina.  I've done this loop several times before on a bike, so it was familiar, but a new adventure for running. Overall at about 9 miles it was also further than I wanted to go, but I figured I'd walk the last bit.

Every mile hurt. I was slower than the plan said, but I stuck with it, somehow taking energy from my ipod as I gritted my teeth and... plodded. After 6 miles I ran out of drink, and was a mess. My legs felt like lead and I'd had enough so diverted along a country lane into head on traffic, just because I wanted to get home.

Now I know what running on tired legs feels like. I can do it, but it's not fun. I'm pleased that somehow I still managed to run all the way, but it was a really close call.

Total Distance 8.61mi
Duration 1:28:46 (Spilt times: 10:04, 10:15, 10:10, 10:33, 10:35, 10:56, 10:18, 10:27, 05:28)
Avg Pace 10:18

Tara Kinder Memorial 10K

So, Friday arrived and with it the 10K race that I'd entered accidentally on purpose.

Those dreadful school sports days aside, I've only ever run in 2 proper races before..

The first race I ever entered was a 10K run on the flood meadows in Burton on Trent, that's the one I followed up by giving myself shin splints, then deciding ignoring them would eventually let my body sort it all out. I've since learnt that doesn't work, and what actually happens is someone of the medical persuasion tells you not to run for at least 12 weeks...

My second race was much more recent and very much a fun event, the Hairy Helmet Relay, which is a 4 person team relay race where each runner does 2.2 miles in Derby's lovely Darley Park. It's a great event for running with a few friends, and afterwards everyone gets a free pint.  What's not to like about that?  I sort of got the running bug back after that, and decided I'd give the half marathon a go.

Anyway, back to the unplanned 10K. Despite having started running in the week again and completing that one small (and not too serious) race I decided that I'd still no idea if I'll ever be good enough to make it round a full 13.1 miles, or how I'd stand up when I actually had to push myself a bit. To be fair my confidence had taken quite a big knock back after the injuries and I'd become a bit paranoid that if I try to go faster again I'll end up back at square one. The only way I could really tackle that was head on.. So, with a bit of cajoling from my friend Matt, I convinced myself 6 miles of trails and tracks was the best way to find out, and signed up.

It decided to rain, and rain,  pretty much every day leading up to the race. The night before the big day it still hadn't let up completely. If there's one thing I hate, it's that feeling of water squishing up between my toes once trainers become waterlogged.  It's at that point I got a a top tip from Nel over at 3 Good Things that what I needed were 'amazing waterproof socks' that afternoon I got myself over to The Derby Runner and picked up a pair. Finally I was all set for whatever nature decided to throw at me...

So, the race.. There was quite a crowd starting to form by the time I got there. I bumped into a few people I knew and some I didn't, had a chat, and tried to take my mind off what came next. At one point I even resorted to stretching for a bit, which it turns out is actually quite calming. After a while we were summoned over to what would be the start line, some race announcements were made.  If I'm honest I'm not exactly sure what they all were, because near the back of a crowd of 500 people sound doesn't carry so well.  The important one however was 'keep left so the faster people can get past you'.  I kept left for most of the race!

Without much further a do there was a whistle blown and we were off. Along some dirt track, through the woods, and then it was time to encounter the first patch of mud, a few puddles, some quite deep, it's fair to say the course definitely wasn't a full scale mud bath, but my feet got submerged a few times every lap. Thanks to the magic socks I wasn't avoiding the puddles where others tiptoed round, and I never got that squishy feeling once. They really are amazing. (Thanks Nel!)

Nike Pegasus 28 - Not in the slightest bit waterproof.
Before I knew it I'd completed the first of my 3 laps.. I'd been that distracted by the crowd and the scenery that I really wasn't paying attention to my pace, just in making progress and not falling over, particularly the not falling over bit.

I'd decided when I signed up that I'd be best just to just treat the race as my weeks speed work, and as long as I managed 4 miles at around 8:41 then all would be good with the world, with a bit of luck I might manage nearer six and get myself under the 55 minute mark.

Two miles done and I was ahead of where I needed to be. Common sense got the better of me at that point and I decided I needed to pace myself and live to fight another day, the real target is still the half marathon. I started to think about breathing again and got myself back on track at the right speed. It felt like I was running within my limits, but not to the point of it being too easy.. maybe 9 tenths.

More mud, more splashing, and despite the fact I was starting to look like I'd been dragged through a hedge backwards I was actually having fun. Round about the middle of my second lap it happened, that thing I'd been dreading, one step slightly wrong, the ground underneath my foot turned out to be a small rock, and I turned my ankle... Thankfully it didn't bear my full weight, I staggered slightly then got back on with the running, my heart in my mouth.

By the third lap I was starting to feel it a bit, I even grabbed a cup of water at the drink station. I've never actually tried to drink from a cup when running before, turns out it's not easy.. Lucky I only wanted a sip because at the third try I managed to get one.. The rest of the cup went straight over my head - just what the doctor ordered... 2 more miles to go and I was feeling good again.

I think on that last lap I overtook a few people, my pace picked up slightly, every so often I got the reality check of someone overtaking me too. With half a mile to go I'd got into a pattern of changing places with a chap in a blue t-shirt which kept going most of the way to the finish line. (I think he beat me at the end.)

And there it was, the clock had some numbers on it, I knew there were 50's involved but my brain didn't really process them. I was across the line.  After wandering round for a moment I realised I should probably stop my watch too.  Amazingly it showed my time was better than my previous PB, I'd no idea quite how much by, and in many ways it didn't matter - this wasn't about being the fastest, or about the time, it was about getting myself back some of the fitness I'd lost, feeling OK about running, and along the way maybe starting to find my mojo again.

It's fair to say I'll never be a record breaking runner, but having now seen the timings I managed to finish over a minute faster than the last one, despite a faster 10K not being my goal. It actually feels like I'm making progress again.

Total Distance 6.2mi (10K)
Duration 51:54 - A new PB! (Spilt times: 08:14, 08:26, 08:41, 08:44, 08:31, 08:24, 00:54)
Avg Pace 8:26

Here's the race log on mapmyrun.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Keeping on keeping on

Tonight I should have been running 5 miles, with 4 of them at an 8:41 pace but I've switched the plan about a bit to allow for Friday at the Tara Kinder 10k, so instead I did my second easy run of the week, 3 miles at a 10m10s pace.

I've come to the conclusion that try as I might I can't actually run at 10:10 for any extended period of time, it really messes with my stride and I end up doing a strange kind of shuffle where I move my legs a lot but don't quite move forward enough, oddly this is actually harder than going slightly faster. I reckon I'll end up sticking around 9:50 on the slow runs from now on.

Another thing I've realised is that I've really lost weight since I stepped the training up and I'm sure it's not helping my recovery, I really need to start thinking about my diet a bit more, and making sure I'm actually eating enough, which probably needs to include eating breakfast!

Anyway from here I've got a rest day then it's what will now be the weeks fast run. Hopefully I'll get in those scheduled 4 x 8:41's and still have something left in the tank to finish on a decent enough time. I'm a bit nervous about it though, I really don't feel that quick.  I hope it isn't raining.

Today's easy run.

Total Distance 3.09mi
Duration 29:57 (Spilt times: 9.46, 9.25, 9.56)
Avg Pace 9:42

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Sometimes you're losing

Tuesday, and a 4 mile easy run on the plan.  This should have been simple, but it wasn't. I think it all started to go wrong with me skipping lunch, then I made it worse by eating around 7PM and thinking I could run just fine an hour later. I did the run, but started out too fast, covering the first mile in an 8:43 and not the steady 10:10 I'm supposed to do for easy runs.  It was around that point my full stomach decided to make itself known, along with a case of stitch, my legs also wanted to remind me I'd done 9 miles a couple of days before, and felt like lead.

Feeling a bit defeated at the protests I slowed down to the pace I should have been doing, I refused to stop and ran the remaining 3 miles with stitch and the feeling I was about to be sick for most of the way round. In terms of numbers the next 3 miles were still pretty much on plan, and whilst I'm sure it's supposed to be character building having days like this at the time it just felt a bit rubbish really.

Hopefully it's a blip. The half marathon training is going OK, I've accepted that I need to go slow and work on distance more than speed. Then there's the part of me that remembers I also signed up to run the Tara Kinder 10K this Friday... That part still wants to go out and beat the 53:05 PB I got in my first 10K last year, that part is also responsible for me running with shin splints, and the 12 weeks I was told to take off running... I guess that part might have to get used to not getting its way.

Total Distance 4.2mi
Duration 40:13
Avg Pace 9:35

Sometimes you're winning

It's fair to say the preparation for my long run on Sunday wasn't exactly textbook, a beer festival, junk food, late nights. That aside I had an 8 miles on my to do list, and it wasn't a time for excuses as I've still weeks of this to go.

Now this run was completely new ground for me, over the past year or so I've been running variations on the same few local routes, anywhere between 2 and 6 miles 2 or 3 times a week. Once I did a seven and a bit mile run, but I've never really had the inclination to stray further as at the speeds I was running I'd always end up a  wreck around mile 5.

I decided as I'd got further to run than I'd ever run before I should also pick a new destination and maybe mix in some of my usual routes, so a quick look at a map, I decided Mickleover looked far enough away, and I had a plan in mind. I set off in the direction of Clemson's Park, followed by a loop of Heatherton,back to the foot of Pastures Hill  then up the gentle rise of Haven Baulk Lane through Mickleover, then to the hospital, followed by my nemesis - the hill on Manor Road. I hate that hill, but I also like the reward of jogging down Warwick Avenue and Stenson Road after it's out of the way... and that was my route sorted.

I really had no idea how I'd fare trying to run the extra distance, but I have to trust in the plan, so far it's worked out well.  Off I went, the first couple of miles disappeared in no time, it was then I came to the sudden realisation with all that thinking about routes I should have gone to the loo before I left home, and perhaps not had that extra cup of tea..  Oh well with 6 miles or so left to go I had no choice but to make an alfresco pit-stop the wrong side of the stinging nettles and off into the bushes. (Not sure why I'm sharing this, but I guess it's one of those running moments everyone has at some point.) Let's just chalk that up to a new running experience and move on shall we? Okaaay.

Anyway, on I went. Run, breathe. run breathe. Apart from taking in the scenery I pretty much ignored everything else. 4 miles or so in and it finally all seemed to click into place, the slowing down to build up distance concept is a Revelation, at my fast pace I'd be a bit of a mess by about halfway through, but this way I seemed to have energy when I needed it, and each mile just came and went,  fairly uneventfully.  It wasn't long before I was tackling Manor Road, I wasn't wheezy, I was probably even a fairly normal shade for a human, the hill didn't seem so big and I didn't feel so tired. Turns out it was my fastest mile.. Who'd have thought?

Another few miles and I was back home, the whole run turned out to be a bit longer than I'd expected, and by the last mile I'd picked up a few aches in places I don't usually ache, but I'd done it, 9 miles all pretty much on the right kind of pace. That felt good.

Total Distance 9.29mi
Duration 1:31:44 (Spilt times 9:52, 10:27 (inc break), 9:42, 9:52, 10:11, 9:59, 9:09, 9:28, 10:18)
Avg Pace 9:52

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Shiny thing make it better?

So, it's been a busy few days. I started writing this on Thursday, but it's been sat half finished as a draft since then..

Anyway, Thursday came, the weather held, and I decided I'd strike whilst the iron was hot and keep ahead of schedule with my 4 mile easy run. This also left Friday completely clear for the Derby Summer Beer Festival, because it would be rude not to.  (The Derby Beer Festival might be why this stayed a draft.. erm, possibly...)

So, on went the shorts, the t-shirt, the trainers, and the watch.  It was then I realised the watch had a flat battery.

For the past year I've done just about every run with a Garmin Forerunner 305 on my arm, it's a fantastic bit of kit, logs my route, tells me how fast I'm going.  After each run I usually sit down with a drink , plug it into the PC and upload a log onto, where I've been keeping the history of everything I've done. I get to see if I'm faster or slower on the same route, and all sorts of fairly meaningless stuff. As someone who grew up with video games and high score charts it seems like a good way to keep track of how I'm doing.
I've pretty much come to rely on this black and red lump of plastic.  I'm even prepared to overlook the fact it's bulky, and looks like the sort of thing someone with an ASBO might wear...

A Garmin ASBO tag
I looked at it, lifeless, and for a moment I actually felt like I couldn't go for a run, I contemplated shifting my 4 miles back to an early morning, or even missing it. It was then it dawned on me, I must have caught a case of stupid. Until last year I never needed that stuff, sometimes I used to run with a stopwatch / heart rate monitor thing, but again it was unimportant compared to actually doing the run.

So, no Garmin. I figured knowing my time still might be a good idea, had a look in the drawer, found my old stopwatch and decided that it'd be good enough, so instead I'd just go and run and completely ignore the numbers.  There's a nice little 4 and a bit mile route that I run fairly regularly, I'd just run that.

At the end of my road I hit start, the stopwatch started counting, but instead of looking at the screen every so often I ignored it, just thought about my breathing, and how I was running, how I could land more softly, and just making progress with the minimum of effort.  You know what? It was probably the best easy run I've had in ages, those 4 miles sailed past, before I knew it I was back home and hitting the stop button. The only statistic for the whole run: 43:47

Now here's what came as a surprise, the plan says I'm supposed to be doing my easy runs at a 10 minute 10 second mile pace, even without the Garmin ASBO tag to tell me to speed up and slow down, it turns out that's pretty much exactly what I ran.  Who needs technology eh?

And remember those tigers I mentioned the other day, well, you'd really not stop to put a watch on before you ran away from a tiger, would you?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Running to plan...

There I was, 7 PM on a Wednesday evening, it'd been a busy day with work, to be fair I'd not really got the urge to run.  All day my I'd been conscious I'd got to go out and do a tempo run. I checked the plan, 5 miles in total, with three of them at an 8:36 pace. The sort of thing I'd know about rather than a leisurely plod.  The sort of thing I didn't really want to do, but I'd decided if it's on the plan I'm sure as hell going to try. It's at that point I noticed the plan said Thursday. 

Turns out Wednesday's schedule consisted of one nice easy word - rest. I like rest, I can do it without trying... Restfully I looked out of the window, blue skies for the first time in days.  If only all days could be like this.

Apparently I can also do unnecessary guilt. I was tired and hungry, but what the hell, I decided, I should go and run anyway, it might rain tomorrow. Plus if I bring everything forward a day it works better.. Friday I've a friend's birthday and a beer festival taking priority, so 2 rest days in a row might just be a good idea... Also, possibly my last beer for a while.  Needs must, and all that.

So the run.. First a warm up mile, and out towards the park. I've only just started to get the hang of easy runs, but more about that another time. In the spirit of breaking old habits I did something I don't normally ever bother with, I stopped and stretched. I've never been what you call a sensible runner, I've been a stubborn runner, for the last couple of years my approach has been simple, go out, run as fast and hard as I can, come home looking like death, and sometimes feeling like it.

I'm not sure the stretching made much difference, if you were about to run away from a tiger you'd not stop and have a stretch first, but the stopping was a good idea, I felt calm and ready for the task at hand.

3 miles. Out through the park, all uphill.. 8:36, that's going to be hard work, I check the garmin [1] and I'm sticking to my pace. First mile done, bang on target. Then the steep bit. AAARGH! Suddenly it's looking like I’ll do a 10 minute mile! Back to that guilt thing, I dug in and somehow dragged myself back to the target pace. Legs burning I’d made it to where the path flattens out and before I knew it had pulled the time back with a bit to spare. 8:13.  *BEEP* And onto mile 3.. This one thankfully was flat then downhill, so I just kept on keeping on. *BEEP* another 8:13. Hit the button. It was over. A steady mile back home.. Job done. I actually felt good.

Back home, pint of squash and time for a garmin download. 8:20 average, Heart rate at 88% of max, apparently that's just right for a tempo run pace.  Maybe there's something in this plan stuff after all.

[1] The garmin is a double edged sword, it makes me feel guilty when I go slowly, but at the same time it's a huge plus to see when I'm doing well.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Everything starts with a plan, this is mine.

So, the plan...

Thanks to the Runner's World SmartCoach I built myself a training plan. I've never planned my running before, I don't like plans... Plans seem stifling and too much like work, but I get why I need one.  I'm trusting myself to science.

I fed in my current running times and weekly mileage, and the 14 weeks I'd got left until the big day, then decided I'd be ambitious and train on the hardest level it offers.  I might end up slipping, perhaps even winding the mileage back, or I might not.. But if I'm going to follow something properly structured I may as well  push myself, just to see what happens.  Even if it all goes wrong it'll make for a better story, OK?

Wk Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Total
1 Rest Easy Run 2mi @10:10 Rest Tempo Run 5mi, (3 @8:36) Easy Run 2mi @10:10 Rest Long Run 7mi @10:10 16 mi
2 Rest Easy Run 3mi @10:10 Rest Speedwork 5mi (2x1600 @8:07 w/800 jogs) Easy Run 3mi @10:10 Rest Long Run 7mi @10:10 18 mi
3 Rest Easy Run 3mi @10:10 Rest Tempo Run 5mi, (3 @8:36) Easy Run 3mi @10:10 Rest Long Run 8mi @10:10 19 mi
4 Rest Easy Run 4mi @10:10 Rest Tempo Run 6mi, (4 @8:41) Easy Run 3mi @10:10 Rest Long Run 8mi @10:10 21 mi
5 Rest Easy Run 4mi @9:58 Rest Easy Run 4mi @9:58 Easy Run 4mi @9:58 Rest Easy Run 4mi @9:58 16 mi
6 Rest Easy Run 3mi @9:58 Rest Speedwork 7mi (3x1600 @7:57 w/800 jogs) Easy Run 3mi @9:58 Rest Long Run 9mi @9:58 22 mi
7 Rest Easy Run 5mi @9:58 Rest Tempo Run 6mi (4 @8:30) Easy Run 4mi @9:58 Rest Long Run 9mi @9:58 24 mi
8 Rest Easy Run 4mi @9:58 Rest Tempo Run 7mi (5 @8:35) Easy Run 4mi @9:58 Rest Long Run 10mi @9:58 25 mi
9 Rest Easy Run 3mi @9:45 Easy Run 3mi @9:45 Speedwork 8mi (4x1600 @7:48 w/800 jogs) Easy Run 3mi @9:45 Rest Long Run 10mi @9:45 27 mi
10 Rest Easy Run 5mi @9:45 Rest Easy Run 5mi @9:45 Easy Run 5mi @9:45 Rest Easy Run 6mi @9:45 21 mi
11 Rest Easy Run 4mi @9:45 Easy Run 3mi @9:45 Tempo Run 7mi, (5 @8:25) Easy Run 3mi @9:45 Rest Long Run 11mi @9:45 28 mi
12 Rest Easy Run 4mi @9:45 Easy Run 4mi @9:45 Tempo Run 8mi, (6 @8:29) Easy Run 3mi @9:45 Rest Long Run 11mi @9:45 30 mi
13 Rest Easy Run 3mi @9:33 Easy Run 3mi @9:33 Speedwork 10mi (5x1600 @7:38 w/800 jogs) Easy Run 3mi @9:33 Rest Long Run 12mi @9:33 31 mi
14 Rest Easy Run 3mi @10:10 Easy Run 3mi @10:10 Tempo Run 5mi, (3 @8:36) Rest Rest Half-Marathon Good Luck! 24 mi

So, back to plans... Well, it's a fact of life plans change, and at the point of posting this I'm actually 2 weeks in and mostly running a bit faster than the plan says I'm supposed to be right now... I've also thrown caution to the wind and signed up for a 10K race on the Friday of week 4. I don't think I'll do all that well, it's a year since I ran that kind of distance at full effort, and that last 10K I raced ended with me giving myself shin splints, so I've unfinished business with a demon. Is this something to panic about?  No. I've decided to just drop the Thursday tempo run for an easy 2 miles, the race will make up for it and by the time I'm around to Sunday's long run, well, I can figure out how I'm feeling, and make it up from there...

The long road.

I know it was a couple of years ago, but I'm not quite sure exactly when it all started, perhaps it was October. I remember it was dark.

Actually, it wasn't just dark, it was bitterly cold, there may have been rain. Sensible people were in bed. Then came the thought that eventually leads here, the kind of thought that often crosses the minds of people in their mid 30's for almost inexplicable reasons.

"I'm going to go for a run!"

That run turned out to be closer to a walk, there were noises involved that just didn't belong anywhere other than coming out of a badly played pair of bagpipes. As beginnings go, this one could have been called lacklustre.

This only made me stubborn.

Time marches on, and I'm now a couple of years down the line from that meagre beginning, along the way the one mile turned to two, then I went metric and focused on a more impressive sounding 5k, after a while 10k.. I even did a race, I got faster... I got injured.

And well, that's enough of the history lesson for now.  Here I am, a couple of years later, I've switched back to measuring things in imperial and decided to run a half marathon in Nottingham at the end of September.

Here is where I record my story.